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Focus on responsible gun ownership

Every time a gun-related tragedy occurs, the cry goes out to ban certain types of weapons, establish waiting periods or pass other gun legislation, but in the end, nothing ever really gets done.

For change to happen, it takes more than just knee-jerk reactions and attempts at legislation. What’s needed is a societal course correction. We, as a state and country, must figure out how to encourage more responsibility when it comes to owning firearms.

People’s attitudes and behavior can change if they feel the pressure of public opinion. When family members, friends and neighbors become willing to speak out and make it clear that a community’s health is the most important value, then incidences of irresponsible behavior can be reduced. This has been proven with campaigns against drunken driving and smoking — two other dangerous behaviors that are in decline precisely because a majority of people said “enough.”

This topic is at the top of our minds, of course, because of the the June 5 shooting at Seattle Pacific University and the June 10 school shooting at Reynolds High School.

So, let’s be clear at the outset that there are two types of gun ownership: responsible and irresponsible. We don’t know enough yet to say for certain whether the parent of the shooter at Reynolds could have done more to keep his guns away from his 15-year-old son. Such details will await completion of the police investigation.

We do believe, however, that reasonable suggestions for reducing the potential for gun deaths ought to be rationally discussed. It has been frustrating to hear the vitriolic reaction to a renewed proposal from state Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Southwest Portland Democrat, to make adults criminally liable for what happens with firearms obtained by children.

Burdick could have chosen her words better when she directly questioned whether the father of the Reynolds shooter had acted responsibly, but the idea behind her legislation is far, far from radical. Twenty-eight other states — including deep-red, gun-rights states such as Mississippi, Texas and Georgia — have some sort of Child Access Prevention law already on the books.

That puts Oregon in a minority of states that haven’t passed this most basic of gun-safety legislation. Not only has the Oregon Legislature not approved such a law, it hasn’t even allowed a child-access bill to have a committee hearing where the pros and cons could be discussed and helpful amendments could be offered by all sides.

Child Access Prevention laws that have been proposed in Oregon don’t require additional background checks or require registration of firearms. They don’t require firearms safety training for anyone who purchases a firearm. They don’t require that you lock your firearms up — although we would think that would be common sense for any firearms owner.

Oregon critics of a Child Access Prevention law will point out that Multnomah County already has similar regulations on the books, and that didn’t stop the Reynolds shooting. That line of reasoning misses the point. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 7,500 children are admitted to hospitals each year due to a gunshot wound, with more than 500 children dying from these injuries.

This discussion isn’t about stopping a single tragic incident — it’s about making our communities safer and healthier for children. It seems as if the Oregon Legislature could at least have a conversation about how best to accomplish that goal. That’s where societal pressure must re-enter the picture. People should be capable of having reasoned debates about this issue — and they also should convey to their legislators that they expect them to do the same.



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